1100 Suitcases not packed. Kids pestering me. Mark at football. Coffeemaker broken. Breakfast burned. No idea what we are doing or where. UGH
1200 Drop kids off with Grandpa. Return home to pick up sleeping bags Mark forgot. Car full of camping gear. Rain threatens. Shoot me now.
100 Feeling better after pancakes, eggs, bacon and coffee at Cahill Diner. Head north. I guess we’re going to Duluth but Mark won’t say if I’m right.
500 Arrive at Split Rock Lighthouse
, north of Two Harbors. Tour lighthouse, foghorn building and keeper’s house. Fascinating tour is led by Dave, who reminds us of my former professor Drake. Mark soon lets me in on the fact that we came to the North Shore because it is Minnesota’s only copper mining region, and this is our 7th (copper) anniversary. I jokingly ask if we’re heading to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula too, which is much better known for copper.
700 Set up tent at Wildhurst Lodge Campground west of Finland after learning Tettegouche has lost our reservation for a spot on the lake. Mark is very angry.
800 Dinner at Our Place in Finland. Decent food, good service, not too expensive.
900 Build a nice fire, brave the mosquitoes for a while (the campsite is on a creek and we’ve been spoiled with a mostly squito-free summer) and then turn in for the night. Rain holds off till we’re tucked nicely in our cozy, dry, borrowed tent.
900 Roll out of bed, pack up and head back toward the lake. Pick up breakfast at the Finland Co-op, an expensive tiny grocery/general store.
945 Check out gift shop back at Tettegouche State Park, fill up water bottles, drive to trail head.
1030 Start walk down to High Falls. It’s .7 miles, including 389 stairs and a bouncy metal bridge. The view is wonderful and the water is clean, clear and tastes better than water from the visitor’s center.
1200 Start drive north, stopping for pictures at Taconite Harbor, Father Baraga’s Cross, Cutface Creek Pullout and geological marker at Good Harbor Bay. These stops are all recommended in “61 Gems on Highway 61″, a great little book that we bought at Split Rock.
145 Lunch at Wild Onion in Grand Marais, which serves Mark’s third favorite burger of all time, and it’s the first non-beef burger to make the list.
345 Arrive at Grand Portage Marina after quick stop at St. Francis Xavier Church at Chippewa City, which is not open. Set up tent. This place reportedly is free and rarely gets tents but really it’s $15 and we count about a dozen tents.
400 Visit Grand Portage National Monument
and Heritage Center. This is their annual Rendezvous Days so entry is free and there are many events. See a game of La Crosse, hear some music and learn about the fur trade and Indian relations in the 1700s. Unfortunately, the site closes at 5:30 and the center at 6:00 so we’re a bit rushed. This would be well worth a longer visit at another time. We do see a huge chunk of copper found on the lake bottom. This was the original reason for stopping here, although Mark was also excited to go to the newest monument in the national park system. There is apparently more copper to come tomorrow.
615 The Grand Portage Band of Ojibawe’s annual pow-wow is the same weekend of the Rendezvous. It is also free so we check it out. We eat fry bread; Mark eats a mooseburger; both impressive.
700 The Grand Entry
was entertaining at first but the significance is lost on us as nothing is explained and all the music and dancing seems the same. Need to do some research on this, though signs are already pointing toward this being a poor representation of what it should be like.
815 Drive north to check out the town of Grand Portage to discover there really isn’t one. It’s an Indian Reservation and has the basic amenities but they are scattered about, with no central “town.” Drive on to the Canadian border just for the heck of it, even though I don’t have a valid passport. Not much to see. But we drive by a ferry boat port and Mark says we need to be there by 800 tomorrow. In some brochures, I discover these boats go to Isle Royale
. Mark laughs and says he can’t believe it took me this long to figure out the main destination. So, we’re heading to Michigan after all!
900 Return to tent and turn in almost right away because we’re beat. Unfortunately, our neighbors don’t stop talking (LOUDLY) until 230 so our sleep is not very sound.
700 Our neighbors are up, blaring music, and so are we. We pack up quickly and get out of there as soon as possible. Stop at the gas station for breakfast and a lunch to pack.
800 Arrive at port of the Wenonah. It leaves at 830 and Mark says it’s about a 45-minute ride to the island, 22 miles away.
900 Mark is very wrong. It is a three-hour trip, and we have brought nothing to occupy the time. Can’t look at the scenery because the fog is so thick that we don’t even see the small boat next to us until it’s a few feet away. Luckily it showed up on radar. One of the captains says it was the scariest trip out of port he’s experienced.
1000 Have read all the maps and newspapers about Isle Royale that are on the ferry boat. Cold and bored.
1130 Arrive in Isle Royale National Park. It’s not clear enough to see the shipwreck of the America even though we pull up right next to it. The sun starts to peek through just as we dock.
1200 Take a nature tour guided by a park ranger and learn about the island’s research
, history, plants, animals and geology. Head out on our own for a short walk to see what little evidence of copper mining is left – a trench dug by and that doesn’t look like much of anything any more. The weather stayed nice during our whole t.5-hour stay.
200 Buy a book
to read on the boat trip back. It’s a youth book about life in an 1800s Isle Royale copper mining town.
300 Pass the Rock of Ages lighthouse, which is on a huge outcropping of rocks far from shore. It’s one of 4 lighthouses on the archipelago and is still operational, though now automated, not manned.
500 It was clear and sunny the whole trip back. The lake is not as dead calm as on the way out but the one-foot waves are not much to speak of. A seagull followed us a good portion of the trip, alternating between flying and sitting atop the ferry. One captain says the bird does this every trip.
545 Decide to drive south before finding a place to camp, rather than staying at the marina again and having nothing to do all evening. Stop to check out Hollow Rock Resort. Not too exciting as a tourist stop, but would be a cool place to rent a cabin, right on the lake, some time.
615 Stop at Naniboujou Lodge, hoping to eat dinner, though I fear it will be too expensive. It is, and also not Mark’s type of cuisine. We take a few pictures, check out the grounds and head on.
645 Dinner at Sven and Ole’s
Pizza in Grand Marais. It’s as good as the hype.
830 Take our picture with Rocky Taconite (right) in Silver Bay. Oddly, Mark knew about this strange guy before we read about him in the 61 Gems book. Campgrounds at Tetteguche, Split Rock and Gooseberry are all full for the night so we drive on.
920 Stop for gas in Two Harbors and decide to shoot for Jay Cooke State Park despite the darkness falling.
1000 Mark says Jay Cooke is “too close to Duluth” and drives by. Mike, who is babysitting, calls to ask when we’ll be home so we decide to just keep going, telling him we’ll be home within three hours.
To do update: Everything on last list done
To do on Monday: So much I don’t even know where to begin. And I can hardly keep my eyes open. Let’s start with getting unpacked.